Friday, 17 January 2014

World Building

Living in an ice world
World building can be a particularly wonderful part of writing. It is often associated in the main with fantasy and science fiction where you have an opportunity to create everything. Good world building adds credibility to your story. It makes it believable and draws the reader in.

It is important to understand what the difference between setting and world building is? Setting is all about describing the basic needs in a story but the world you build is all about adding layers of details. The light and shade, bringing you story to life.

World building can come in a variety of forms, from worlds that are created totally by the writer to those that take a nation or culture out of history and use it as the primary inspiration for a fantasy world. There is historical fantasy which is a story based in a real historical period but introducing the fantastical, particularly technologically based if you are thinking about steam punk. Of course there is the worlds created for sci fi which includes science and/or technology. These again can be truly fantastical or they can be embedded within an element of truth. Whatever aspects need to be included they have to be plausible and as a writer you need to understand the rules of your world totally. It is not just about what your world looks like and its geography but also how the culture works, the politics, the science, the nature including the flora and fauna. What is the racial distribution of your population? Are they even all human? The reader wants to believe that the impossible is possible. They need to believe in the world.

World building is not just about fantasy and science fiction or even dystopian fiction as even in realist books you have to have an understanding of your world. For example, you need to know your geography. Is the journey you are sending your characters on feasible and consistent? Can you describe it? Google maps, tourist guides, historical artifacts etc are great resources for this if you haven''t been able to visit the place.

Remember readers will put the book down if they can no longer believe what is happening. Your world has to ring true in whatever format you are writing. It doesn't matter who you are writing for - children, young adults, adults - you still need a plausible world that the reader can get lost in. But most importantly don't spend so long building your world that you forget to write the story. World building can inform your writing but don't let it take over there still needs to be a great story and strong characters.

So go on, enjoy playing 'god' as you build your world.

And here is a bit of Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles for all the lonely people in their own worlds...just because really.


  1. Great post! World building is my second favourite part of writing (after creating characters), and as I write lots of fantasy I seem to do a lot of it! :)

    Google maps is a great tool, especially if you use street view. You can really get a sense of place from it.

    1. Thank you, am glad you enjoyed it. I agree about the street view on Google maps. It is amazing

  2. Great post, Vanessa! World building, second to the story and characters themselves, has to be one of the most fun parts of creating a work of fiction. And I agree, Google Maps, Google Earth - esp Street View and YouTube are invaluable resources if you've never been to the place in which you're setting your story.

    1. Oooh YouTube I had forgotten that - thank you for reminding me. Glad you liked it

  3. You've got to believe in some corner of yourself that you're really there, I think...